Courts, freeholders, arts group reach deal to return art to Morris County gallery

Patrons admire paintings at Art in the Atrium 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Patrons admire paintings at Art in the Atrium 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin


Editor’s note: The closure of the Atrium Gallery in Morris County’s administration building outraged artists and clergy members earlier this year. County officials say they have agreed to art art back to the public space–with some stipulations.  

From the Morris County Freeholders:


The Morris County Board of Freeholders, the State Judiciary and nonprofit Morris Arts have negotiated an agreement that would allow for the return of artwork to the halls of the county government headquarters in Morristown starting in 2020.

After numerous meetings on the subject of the display of art in the County Administration and Records Building, a practice that ceased at the end of 2018, a memorandum of understanding, specific guidelines, and an artist’s waiver were developed.

The Board of Freeholders Wednesday night approved a resolution directing the Freeholder Director to sign a memorandum of understanding to allow art to return to the county building.

A separate agreement next would be executed between the county and Morris Arts for oversight of the exhibits within very specific guidelines that have been developed in concert with the judiciary.

“We know that many county residents voiced concerns about the elimination of the annual art shows, especially student art,’’ said Freeholder Director Doug Cabana. “We heard your voices, worked to restore this building as a venue for art, and look forward to having the halls filled again with artwork again next year.’’

In recent years, due to space limitations in the Morris County Courthouse, the judiciary gradually has occupied more space in the five-story County Administration & Records Building. It now officially considers the building to be a courthouse, with offices and courtrooms on three of the five floors, and the Prosecutor’s Office on a fourth floor.

As a result, artwork in the building must meet judiciary standards that are essential to “fair, impartial and neutral functioning of the courts.’’ As part of the new agreement, artwork will be screened to ensure it does not violate the judiciary’s core values of independence, integrity, fairness and quality service.

As curator, Morris Arts has agreed to follow the guidelines created as part of the new agreement. According to the agreement, “the purpose of the guidelines is to allow for the exhibition of works of art by artists in a welcoming, comfortable, and inclusive environment.’’

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